New study proves what we already know — dads are happier than moms because they get to have more fun
When I spend time with my kids, I usually find myself multitasking. Because the list of crap I have to get done to keep our family’s lives in order is literally never-ending, so if I lose momentum, we all fall behind. But when my husband’s home, he’s on the couch playing Fortnite with our son and then he’s sitting with our daughter looking at her latest drawings and giving her feedback. While all that fun’s happening, I’m going through homework folders, unpacking the day’s lunch remnants, and getting dinner going.
He has all the fun. Of course science would find that he’s happier than I am in his role as a parent.
In a shock to mothers absolutely nowhere, a new study out of the University of California Riverside confirms that dudes are, in fact, enjoying parenting more than us moms. The dads reported “greater positive emotions and fewer daily hassles” than mothers. Maybe it’s the no ice packs to their crotch when the kiddo’s born, or absence of breastmilk stains on their shirts, or free brain space because they don’t retain much pesky info like the kids’ clothing sizes and preferred flavor of jelly, but it seems dads are happier than moms while caring for their kids.
And that’s because they’re more likely to report playing with their kids while taking care of them.
Now, 18,000 couples took part in this study and while we know modern dads are far more likely than their own fathers and grandfathers to do household chores, the majority of it still falls on women. That, along with the emotional labor women tend to shoulder when it comes to keeping the household humming (aka, setting up playdates, making doctor’s appointments, buying more milk, even noticing the milk is running out) means us moms are possibly a little less thrilled with the actual nitty gritty of parenting. Because we hardly ever feel like it’s ok to stop our eternal merry-go-round and just be with our kids.
It’s like a constant cycle of guilt. I feel guilty “just” hanging out with my kids because that means a giant pile of laundry isn’t getting folded and put away. I feel guilty doing the laundry because that means I’m not spending quality time with my kids. And then when I finally get it together and have a chunk of time to be with them while not panicking about doing 100 other things, the time feels pressure-loaded to pack in all the fun and relaxing quality time possible. Which makes me tense and irritable and the cycle of crappy feels begins anew.
What do the study’s authors suggest to fix the problem? Parents should just try to play with their kids more, moms especially. Cool. One more thing to add to my list of stuff that isn’t getting done that literally keeps me up at night.
All snark aside, they do have a point. While my mind might wander to that stupid laundry pile while spending even 15 carefree minutes with my kids, most of my brain is much happier in those moments than it is when I try to do chores and be a mom.
The fact is, the laundry will always wait. The rapidly growing kids (and our mental health) will not.